I’ll miss the way you smile as though it’s just for me

I love Mad Men. And I love companies that use blogging as a tool to promote their content, interact with their fans and get good SEO cred. (Why? Because I work in marketing) But AMCTV’s Mad Men blog pitched me a wingding this week:

Can’t get Peggy’s rendition of “Bye Bye Birdie” out of your head? Why should you? But while you’re humming that tune, check out the following online extras:

Those of you who saw “Love Among the Ruins” in Season 3, Episode 2 should already have your jaws on the desk. If not, I may have to spoil a bit.

Peggy Olsen (Elizabeth Moss) is the only female copywriter in the 1960s Madison Avenue advertising firm Sterling Cooper. In this episode, she’s assigned to draft a commercial for Pepsi’s new diet drink, Patio, inspired by Ann-Margret singing the title of “Bye, Bye Birdie”:

In the brainstorm Peggy argues that, while Ann-Margret’s veiled sensuality certainly appeals to the males in the audience (and let’s be frank, there is something kind of sexy about the open pleading, the bit lips, the shaken head, etc, I don’t need to spell it out further, do I?), Patio is targeted at women. Women don’t need to be seduced by Ann-Margret. The other men in the room dismiss her criticism and her boss, Don Draper, shuts her down with restrained impatience.

Rebuffed, Peggy wonders if she’s missing out on something. Peggy’s character arc through the first two seasons veers between Career Professional and Sexual Creature, two identities she can’t wear simultaneously in the 1960s. So, in “Love Among the Ruins,” Peggy reconsiders her path for a moment. Is that really all men want, she wonders? Not someone intelligent with whom to share a life, but someone kittenish and accessible?

And there’s a heartbreaking scene, halfway through the episode, where Peggy stands in front of her bedroom mirror in her nightgown and does her best Ann-Margret impression. And it’s just not good.

peggy-olson-bye-bye-birdie

It’s an example of how great Mad Men is at capturing vulnerability: the unguarded moments when our professional mask slips. It’s raw and poignant and embarrassing and rewarding.

Can’t get Peggy’s rendition of “Bye Bye Birdie” out of your head? Why should you?

Can’t get Mr. Blonde’s rendition of “Stuck In the Middle with You” out of your head? Can’t get Buffalo Bill’s rendition of “Goodbye Horses” out of your head? Can’t get the Radiator Lady from Eraserhead‘s rendition of “In Heaven” out of your head? Why should you? They’re only meant to haunt you about the civilized veneers we plaster over our primal insecurities. Snap your fingers, tap your toes.

(N.B. Things don’t end bad for Peggy. She gets dolled up, goes to a bar, picks up a college student, goes back to his place for a one-night stand, then sneaks out at about five in the morning. Critical reaction to this was mixed, but I saw it as a tremendous step forward for Peggy. She tried her hand at the Don Draper seduce-and-destroy lifestyle, enjoyed it, decided it didn’t work for her, and went back to work none the worse for wear. She didn’t get a hysterical pregnancy or sit weeping on the floor of her shower. Sex is great; glad I had some; la dee da)

Anyhow, moral of the story: make sure the intern writing your blog has actually seen the episodes they blog about.

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